Eye Protection in Numbers: How the Welding Lens Shade Chart Works to Keep Your Eyes Safe

welder setting up plasma cutter

Welding Buddy Experts

December 21, 2021
welding lens shade chart

What do you consider the most important part of your body when welding? You might think of your hands since they do most of the work. That's not wrong; you can't weld anything without them, after all. But there isn’t just one part of the body that’s important; other parts also need to function well, and they should also be protected.

Hence the production of welding personal protective equipment (PPE). A list of welding clothing essentials is designed to protect your whole body from head to toe. Although you don't use every part directly to weld, they have their own role in keeping you unscathed during the entire session.

This article centers on vision, which significantly influences the welding results. There are small and narrow details on your workpiece that need close observation. Therefore, you need a good pair of eyes and close proximity to ensure precise welds. 

But with the presence of various welding hazards, a clear naked pair of eyes isn't enough. It also needs superior protection to avoid exposure to splatter, sparks, infrared light, and other dangerous particles. Failing to protect them from these can cause minor to severe (and permanent) eye damage. Here are some know-hows on basic PPE, safety practices, and how a welding lens shade chart works. 

Personal Protective Equipment Structure for Eye Protection

Welding PPE is no magic trick. They don't eliminate risks in the workplace, but they significantly reduce the possibilities and save you from injuries. To ensure your protection, your PPE should have excellent quality. 

Let's discuss the basic welding PPE for your head, face, and eyes.

welding lens shade chart - welding lens - welding with bright sparks image

Welding Helmet

A welding helmet is a primary defense for your head and face. It's a hard hat containing either a fixed or auto-darkening lens. It protects you from sparks, spatter, UV light, infrared rays coming from welding arcs, and other particles around welding areas.

Welding Face Shield

A face shield covers your entire face. You can insert one into welding helmets for extra protection, but others also use them as an alternative (only for lighter welds). Unlike welding helmets, they are more lightweight but lack a structure covering other parts of your head.

Welding Goggles

Welding goggles are only made for the eyes. They fit over prescription eyeglasses and protect you from flashes, sparks, and other particles. It's reliable, but using it without other PPE isn't ideal for your safety. For this reason, most welders wear them along with a welding helmet for extra protection

What Sets Them Apart From Non-Welding Equipment? 

What makes these devices different from the typical helmets, face shields, and goggles? It's the welding lens. These tools contain pre-installed lenses that protect your vision from harmful welding lights, radiation, and solid particulates.

Welding lenses consist of a front lens and a shaded lens. The front lens is made of plastic, while the shaded lens is tinted glass.

Lens Talk: How a Welding Shade Chart Works

Now, welding lenses have this thing called a welding selection chart. It can be confusing at first, but it is easier to grasp than it looks. You have to master it to help you find the eye protection you need when welding.

A lens shade chart is a tool consisting of various shade levels or numbers that serves as protection against different radiation intensities. Here's a rule of thumb: the higher the shade level, the darker the lenses are.

How to Determine the Appropriate Lens Shade

To select the correct lens shade, you must determine a few factors. In other words, there's no fixed rule for finding the right shade level; you have to consider the following points first, then you'll get your answer.

Factor #1: Type of Welding

First, you need to know the welding process you're using because the light intensity differs per process. For example, arc welding produces a bright light, while gas metal arc welding emits intense heat and forms more smoke than arc welding.

We recommend using the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulations to guide your welding helmet and lens requirements. Here's a sample table of shade levels and other eye protection initials for shielded metal arc welding.

OperationElectrode Size - Inch (mm)Arc Current (Amperes)OSHA Minimum Protective Shade NumberANSI & AWS Shade Number Recommendations

Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
Less than 3/32 (2.4)Fewer than 607
More than 5/32-1/4
More than 160-2501012
More than ¼ (6.4)More than 250-5501114

Factor #2: Welding Environment

Are you going to weld in a workspace with a lot of sunlight? It can interfere with the welding process, so you must have the appropriate shade level to darken the lens filter. This is where auto-darkening helmets come in handy; they have automatic sensors that adjust the filter according to the detected radiations. Still, it is better if you understand how shade levels work in the first place.

Factor #3: Arc Current in Amperes

As you can see from the table above, arc current is part of the considerations when choosing a shade number for your welding helmet. This is because the welding arc temperature rises when metal is heated, producing radiation harmful to your vision. For this reason, you need a shade level that can handle such intensity.

Factor #4 (Optional): The Electrode Diameter of the Welding Machine or Torch

The electrode size is another factor in determining the correct lens shade level for your welding helmet. The larger the diameter is, the more heat and radiation is produced. However, we consider this optional because not all welding machines and processes require you to figure this out. 

welding lens shade chart - welding selection chart - two welders discussing with papers on hand image

Other Welding Safety Practices That Are Helpful for Your Eyes

Some general welding safety practices indirectly affect eye protection. Here are some tips to keep your vision protected at all times.

  • Take the time to learn. Educate yourself with the nitty-gritty details of welding protection. If you're working for a company, study their safety guidelines carefully. If you're working independently, look for manufacturing instructions before starting your operation. By doing this, you can minimize the risk of welding hazards.
  • Test your eye equipment before using it. Testing is a must, especially if you're new to welding. You need to understand how these eye devices work and ensure their functionality. Look for signs of wear and tear on your lens and fix or replace them when necessary.
  • Organize your work environment. Ensure that your workspace is clean, organized, has enough space and less clutter before you start welding. Get rid of flammable materials and prevent dust and dirt from piling up as they are all harmful to your eyes.
  • Practice proper lens maintenance. Lastly, you should always clean your lens before and after using them. Luckily, you don't need a special tool and process to clean welding lenses. It only revolves around dust wiping, washing, and rinsing until the tool looks squeaky clean and ready for use again.

Weld With a Healthy and Precise Vision

Eye protection is incredibly important in welding. The arc welding shade chart outlines the best level of protection that you should wear when welding under certain conditions. However, there are other eye safety practices that you must also follow to ensure your eyesight is protected and remains healthy for years to come.

We hope this article helped you understand how lens shades for welding works and how to make the most out of them for eye protection. Browse our website for more reviews on the best welding lens for your eyes or the best eye protection for welding.

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